Live Review: Nas and Damian Marley — The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA
Tue, 01 Jun 2010 06:45:03
Nas and Damian Marley are more like sonic superheroes than musicians.
Their current, Distant Relatives tour, is so otherworldly in its brilliance that it might as well be an installment of The Justice League. If anyone's going to save hip hop (and reggae), it'll be this dynamic duo.
Nas and Damian Marley gave Los Angeles the ultimate hip hop show this past Friday night at the Wiltern. Rap’s two X-Men tore throw a nearly two-hour set of phenomenal cuts from their Distant Relatives collaboration album as well as Nas and Marley family classics. Distant Relatives opening track "As We Enter" ignited the show, pairing Nas's robust, raw flow with Marley's impenetrable baritone. The two weaved rhymes together seamlessly integrating Marley's Jamaican spirit into Nas underground grit. On stage, Nas remains untouchable—never breaking his flow for a breath, he fires off verses with a rapid syncopated assault. His rapping sounds more like an infectious battlecry than simple rhyming. Each word resounded powerfully and poignantly. In between the lyrical fireworks, Marley crooned out hooks so catchy they’d put a smile on his legendary father's face. "Tribal War" rumbled with a snaky bass thud and Nas drove the charge forward as Marley declared, "Babylon deserves to burn."
The only thing burning was the vestiges of what rap used to be. These two conjured a new paradigm for hip hop on stage with the unforgettable and undeniable, "Nah Mean." The guitar cycled in and out, playing the album's flute line as our two heroes volleyed the chorus back and forth. Tossing his leather jacket to the side at the end of the song, Nas stalked the stage, precisely pummeling right through a steamrolling rendition of "Hip Hop is Dead," as the packed venue chanted along with him over the eerie beat. "If I Ruled the World" channeled a similar energy as Nas ripped through the rhyme with the kind of heart that only prizefighter's have. There are few rappers to ever hit a stage with the kind of intensity that Nas drops in one verse—somehow he never let up either.
More Distant Relatives material shined. "Leaders" resounded with a primal power as Marley circled center stage without missing a beat. "Dispear" and "Count Your Blessings" bounced with a tribal bump as the backing band summoned uncanny renditions of the album's intricate soundscapes live on stage.
The highlight came with Nas classic, "Hate Me Now." Over an orchestra of guitar, bass and beats, Nas flexed every hip hop superpower he's got. The hook hit sharply and succinctly, but his verses were just as potent. He bobbed and weaved across the stage, giving a piece of his soul with every lyric. This mid-section of the show proved why Nas may very well be the greatest living rapper.
Marley managed to match him on "Africa Must Wake Up" and a fitting heartfelt tribute to pops, "Could This Be Love." With a backdrop featuring both of their faces and an outline of Africa in between, it was clear these two truly are kindred spirits—like any superhero team.
At one point, Nas described the entire Distant Relatives experience best, "If I was a Jamaican artist, I'd be Damian. If he was a hip hop artist, he'd be me. We’re all brothers."
Didn't Bruce Wayne say the same thing about Clark Kent once?
What superheroes do you think Nas and Damian Marley are most like? Have you seen this tour yet?